930353 - Captain Phillips

“Greater than the tread of mighty armies is an idea whose time has come.”
Victor Hugo

In 2009, a cargo ship commanded by Captain Richard Phillips through the international seas around Somalia was hijacked by a swarm of Somali pirates. Quick maneuvering by Captain Phillips (an exceptional Tom Hanks) manages to send one of those small boats fleeing back to Somalia. But the other boat and its captain Abduwali Abdukhadir Muse (a breakout performance by Barkhad Abdi) refuses to turn back. The cargo ship, carrying relief supplies to several countries (including Somalia), has no firearms aboard, no security detail, no defense. All they have are high-pressure water hoses and their own wits.

Captain Phillips orders his own men below deck to hide from Muse and his men. It works up to a point. They make a deal to give the men $35,000 (all the cash they have aboard) if they simply retreat. The men refuse, believing that by holding Phillips and his crew hostage they can bribe the US for millions. If the plan of the 9/11 hijackers was flawlessly executed, the same could not be said about this group of teenage Somalis high on khat, some of them barefoot, all of them wearing rags. The dominoes begin to fall, they are eventually backed into a corner under siege by the most powerful defense system in the history of civilization.

The sensitivity with which screenwriter Billy Ray, director Paul Greengrass, and especially the film’s star, Tom Hanks, approach this subject matter is startling, especially for an American film, especially a film about terrorism. How dare we sympathize with our faceless enemies who want to kill Americans?

Captain Phillips is a true story, one that was shaped and used as fodder for wartime mentality , a level orange freak-out bomb. Captain Phillips was celebrated as a hero, a title he certainly earned. What makes the movie unusual is how it weaves the story of the pirates we were never told. The ambiguity of war, the confusing feelings it stirs up, the ultimate tragedy it leaves in its wake — all of these ideas thread through Captain Phillips. We Americans are mighty. We have the luxury of choosing what we want to do with our lives. Our wealth overflows in our trash heaps. We throw out more food than most countries consume in a year. Greengrass’ film asks you to take a look at it from the other side.

Greengrass, working with cinematographer Barry Ackroyd and editor Christopher Rouse, brings the urgency to life with pulsating action sequences, and breathtaking unforgettable shots of giant Navy vessels swallowing up the ocean juxtaposed with the tiny boat that holds the hijackers. Greengrass never rushes through the expository scenes, but lets the character development build naturally. At the same time, he never lets up when the film reaches its tense third act.

Some of the critics out of the gate have criticized the film for portraying the hijackers as faceless, personality-less and overtly evil. I would say the opposite is true. The story sold to us Americans was precisely that. We bought it and continued to believe that this was another attack from our enemies — never mind that pirates only wanted cold, hard cash and had nothing to do with Al Qaeda. Regardless of their meager goals and motivations, there were no winners on the Somali side of things. The Americans always win, as Hanks’ character says in the film. Captain Phillips is a film I hope Americans make an effort to see, though it’s Fox News’ worst nightmare.

It’s 2013. Twelve years since 9/11 almost exactly. Much has changed in our country. Two international wars that took the deaths of 6,756 American soldiers, to say nothing of the deaths of innocent women and children in Iraq and Afghanistan. We are on the brink of attacking Syria. For all of the fear of terrorism consuming our collective consciousness we’re not the ones getting attacked. Well, almost never. If the opportunity presents itself, our enemies will find a way. But the fear we have from them is like an elephant fearing a mouse. We don’t often have the opportunity to see that extreme imbalance side by side. But in Captain Phillips we are given a chance to review history from a different angle.

Captain Phillips is a terrifying dive into a tense situation that likely could have ended with everyone dead. If you know the facts of the story you’ll already know how the body count tallied up. The history might have been different if the numbers had swung the other way. I’ll leave you to look that up if you have an interest. We have been conditioned to believe that any foreigner who attacks American Interests is a terrorist, the uniform mask of the enemy. But Greengrass shows us the faces of the faceless.

Tom Hanks has once again managed to find an emotional performance to add to his impressive body of work. He never overdoes it here but it’s his compassion, together with Abdi’s performance, that humanizes Captain Phillips out of being just another America, Fuck Yeah movie. The film tries to tell parallel stories of the two captains, how dramatically different their lives are — what has brought them to this point and what will get them out of it. After all, on the Somali side there are no giant army tanks coming to their aid. On the American side, well, there is a reason so much of our tax dollars go towards fortifying our empire.

The real life Muse was but a babe, just 18 years old when he was made as a hijacker. Raised on khat and guns, left with a fishless ocean thanks to the larger corporations depleting their reserves (not to mention dumping toxic waste in their waters), there is little else a young Somali man can do but turn to crime. This is an international problem, and those crimes are also an international problem; the cargo ship was bringing food aid to impoverished countries, Somalia among them. Abdi plays with the right amount of fear and swagger. You never really know what’s going to happen next except that he carefully considers each thought that motivates each action. Hanks and Abdi drive Captain Phillips with equal force.

This year so many directors have deemed to significantly upped their game (depending on whom you talk to). This is true of Woody Allen’s Blue Jasmine, Alexander Payne’s Nebraska, Jason Reitman’s Labor Day, Steve McQueen’s 12 years a Slave, Lee Daniels’ The Butler, Sarah Polley’s Stories We Tell, and Alfonso Cuaron’s Gravity. Greengrass seems to have combined his gifts for storytelling with his obvious adeptness for action sequences in Captain Phillips, in my opinion, one of the best films of the year.

It doesn’t really matter if they have personalities or families or backgrounds. All that matters is that they are people who want to kill Americans. Or, in this case, hijack a ship for money. But those are unnecessary details. We are led to believe we’re in danger every second of the day because we are Americans and everyone wants to kill us. This is a film that could have easily been made by the numbers. But any intelligent person already knows that a ragtag group of hijackers who dare to attack the property of the United States — shoeless teenage nomads going up against the Navy SEALS, for god’s sake — has no earthly shot at winning this game. Greengrass means to go deeper than the foregone conclusion.

Terrorists — a blanket term exploited by our two-term president, George W. Bush, that we are, as Americans, required to kill on sight, or forever imprison under god knows what circumstances. The world is changing fast. Ideas are forever evolving. The shift in Hollywood takes a little longer but that shift is reflected in the best modern war movies, like The Hurt Locker, and now, Captain Phillips.

Maybe you think, who cares. It’s just a Hollywood movie. We live in a culture that looks to movies and television for their reality. That is not changing any time soon, despite the wealth of available news outlets to tell us the truth about what’s happening in our world – the world we share with millions of people from all corners of the world, rich and poor, powerful and powerless.

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  • Alan of Montreal

    Wow, that’s much different from what I expected based on the trailer. Makes me interested in seeing the film now.

  • Miguel

    I’m so excited to see this film! Greengrass is an exceptional filmmaker and I am thankful that this year will be Tom Hanks comeback film, along with Saving Mr. Banks.

    The great movie stars of the ’90s, arguably the last group that could actually qualify as movie stars, are making sure that they’re still a force to be reckon with.

    After last year’s incredible performance by Denzel Washington in Flight, this year alone will see Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock back in the Oscar race, n hopefully (cross our fingers) Julia Roberts once the reviews for August: Osage County comes in the morning after its Toronto premiere.

    I have never seen a more star studded year for the Oscar Race:
    these are Hollywood royalties- ( in order of their odds to be nominated

    Cate Blanchett
    Robert Redford
    Sandra Bullock
    Tom Hanks
    Meryl Streep
    Julia Roberts
    Nicole Kidman
    Kate Winslet
    Leonardo Dicaprio

  • Andrew

    Great review Sasha. I recognize your political ideology as liberal, yet your readers who aren’t as politically astute as some, deserve for you to present an objective analysis when discussing films and politics. Of course GWB is largely responsible for spearheading a giant misunderstanding of why many in the Middle East despise the United States. Not for our freedoms, but instead because of our empire (a term you used in your review) around the world and in their homeland.

    Quantitative and qualitative analysis by Professor Robert Pape has indicated the primary reason for suicide terrorism is because of foreign occupation of the terrorist’s homeland. Even the 9/11 Commission Report states al-Qaeda’s main issue with the U.S. was our continued presence of military bases in Saudi Arabia after the Gulf War. Yet, in your reviews, you’re condemning only Bush and Fox News for the average American’s lack of education on these matters. True, they are responsible to some degree, but what about President Obama? He’s continued the wars that Bush started, all the while continuing the interventionist foreign policies in Libya and now he wants us in Syria. Obama has kept Guantanamo Bay open, and his administration still uses the unconstitutional PATRIOT ACT to strip Americans of their civil liberties. All of this in the name of “defense,” against the bad men and terrorists of this world.

    I love your reviews Sasha, and look forward to reading your entries. But you should do your readers a favor and promote political objectivity when discussing the parallels of movie criticism and political current events.

  • david

    Hey Miguel on your predictions you forgot one? brie Larson she will get nominated so you can take off either winslett or Kidman and replace them with Brie Larson

  • Al Robinson

    I love movies that tell the story as “how it really went down”, and not a pumped up (add action, “more bullets!, more bombs!”) kind of bullshit.

    Sobering movies tell stories that really make you feel and think. Movies like that for me have been United 93, Zero Dark Thirty, and Fruitvale Station.

    BTW, Sasha, was there any particular reason the Oscar voters ignored United 93 for BP or at least a BP nom in 2006?

  • Christophe

    There have been US military bases in Germany and Italy since WW2, yet these countries never tried to exact revenge on America through terrorism. A military base is NOT occupation, it’s cooperation. The benefits for Europe and Saudi Arabia are priceless, since they are being protected from outside military threats by the greatest army in the world, at the expense of US taxpayers.

    The reasons for islamist terrorism are many but none is admissible. One of them is politcal: the alleged “occupation” of Palestine aka the existence of Israel, but the main one is religious: Jihad against infidels with the goal to establish a global caliphate under sharia law.

    Despite some blunders, the intervention in Libya was in the end a success that resulted in the election of a moderate governement.

    On the other hand, the Irak war was questionable from the start since Saddam posed no such threat to the US or to the Iraqui population, but was actually effectively fighting Al Qaeda himself. No wmds were found but Bush & co sure found oil, a lot of it!

  • Kane

    United 93 was most definitely a contender for a best picture nomination. The fact it scored a best director nod just shows that it was close. When you actually sit down and think how categories are voted its easier to see how one can be overlooked in one category yet come through in another. Plus there were only 5 slots for picture that year.

  • Yet, in your reviews, you’re condemning only Bush and Fox News for the average American’s lack of education on these matters. True, they are responsible to some degree, but what about President Obama?

    It was in fact President Obama who gave the order for the Navy SEALS to use deadly force. I think when Sasha begins her review by saying “In 2009…” we already know we’re outside the purview of Bush-era responsibility.

    I do agree the review could have examined the specifics of the response by US forces more explicitly, but I think part of the reason the details are left vague in this piece is to avoid revealing the precise outcome (for those who may not know or have forgotten).

    You make an excellent point, Andrew. Please be assured that the questions you raise were considered. I thought about adding Obama’s name in the mix when we were editing, but then I thought that the date of the hijacking would make it clear this happened under President Obama’s watch.

    Your remarks are of great value to the discussion, though. So thank you for raising those points.

  • Andrew, I think the major takeaway for me in regard to how FOX News sold the story of Somali pirates is in their focus on how Somalia is a Muslim country — FOX always seem to take perverse glee in trying to conflate everyone who’s Muslim with Islamic Extremists.

    I feel as if that’s what the review means to highlight. The way the news says “Muslim” as if it’s always synonymous with Al Qaeda. FOX News is the worst pepertrator of this tone, but we see it happening insidiously on ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN and MSNBC too.

    Sorry, I know it must bug conservatives to see FOX News always named as the bad guys — but is there any doubt that FOX is by far the slimiest example of the worst news media behavior in America? They have that reputation for a reason.

  • Kane

    Ryan beat me to it though I wouldn’t have been able to put it so well. I believe that we’ve had a terrible government for many, many years and anybody who is in office has their head up their ass, be it right or left wing. However, hindsight is 20/20 at this point but the time of the hijacking was in 2009, so specifics regarding politics would’ve been best kept up until that point. I normally like reviews to be politically flatlined but when it comes to a Greengrass film, and he normally likes to show both sides of the coin, it’s important to note the events that lead up to the story. It makes for great character development and Sasha did a good job at getting us into the minds of all the men even further after the credits roll.

  • Obama has kept Guantanamo Bay open

    I’m so sick of this. Congress has made it impossible to close Guantanamo.

    I realize President Obama promised to close it, but he does not have the authority to do unilaterally without Congressional cooperation. I don’t think any of us would have guessed in 2008 that the Republicans in Congress intended to make it their mission to be such relentlessly stubborn shitheels.

  • Kane

    Well said! I normally make a note to people that not every Muslim is Al-Qaeda just like not every Christian is with the Westboro Baptist Church. While I do think that Fox News is one of the few stations that challenge the status quo (which can be commendable), they’re blatant idiots when they come up for air and clean the shit off their noses.

  • Those weren’t predictions, david.

  • your readers who aren’t as politically astute as some, deserve for you to present an objective analysis when discussing films and politics.

    Why? I possess the ability to read a review from one person and regard it as that one person’s independent opinion. We’re all subjective. Don’t go looking for objectivity in the writing of an individual.

  • david

    Hey paddy have you seen the movie “short term 12”? Also you think Larson will get nominated?

  • Yes. I’m aware that this is a true story, but I’ve either never heard of this hijacking or I’ve forgotten about it. I’d rather not know the specific details of what happened. It mustn’t have been such big news in the UK at the time.

  • Not yet. It’ll be released in the UK in November and I should see it then. Not sure about Brie Larson’s chances just yet. It’s way too far out to be able to tell.

  • Andrew

    I agree with the bit about Fox News, and I’m certainly not a conservative in ideology if that was the insinuation, just for the sake of clarity I’m libertarian in philosophy, not party, so I agree with liberals on nearly all social issues and am more conservative fiscally.

    The issue I have with the way the review above was categorized was with the singling out of a particular administration and a particular news organization. Of course both tried to appeal to the lowest common denominator of nationalism regarding the “War on Terror,” and the “us vs them” mentality. Nationalism can be an incredibly dangerous thing. Yet, the hypocrisy is thoroughly evident here. You can argue that Congress had something to do with not closing Guantanamo, but the reality is that the President has refused to make it a real issue on his agenda.

    You’ll be hard pressed to find any legitimate excuses to defend the President when it comes to his hawkish foreign policy which is practically identical to George W. Bush’s. He’s also defended the unconstitutional behavior of the NSA. I don’t think Obama was necessarily responsible for this behavior, but he readily went on national television and defended their actions. Same with the PATRIOT Act. He supports this act, which is a huge part of Bush’s war on terror, and yet as a Senator he was adamantly opposed to its implementation.

    Why is all of this an issue regarding this review? Because Sasha touched on the “other side,” of the coin or conflict, which is the terrorists’ point of view. Well, I certainly understand their hatred for the United States and the unintended consequences that have resulted with our intervention overseas. Bush made it 10x worse, yet Obama has done nothing to make our image any better. If anything, he has exacerbated our image in the Middle East even moreso. The drone program has been fully extended under his administration and has caused the deaths of many innocent civilians in the Middle East. I’d love to hear a liberal or conservative’s defense of this program considering its clear violation of constitutional and international law.

    It’s certainly relevant to discuss this, but it’s also important to be objective about our standing in the world, how the Middle East views us and why. Refusing to hold the current administration accountable while continuing to point the figure at the failed previous administration is counterproductive.

  • “Of course both tried to appeal to the lowest common denominator of nationalism regarding the “War on Terror,” and the “us vs them” mentality.”

    That’s exactly right. And I don’t feel as if MSNBC and Obama share that mentality.

    Do you honestly think Obama “tries to appeal to the lowest common denominator of nationalism?” If you do, I don’t.

    If Obama doesn’t pander the way Bush did, then how are Bush and Obama the same?

    That’s a FOX/Bush thing and it’s not an attitude I see at all in the Obama administration. Period.

    There are enormous differences in the way Obama and Bush operate overseas.

    If you don’t think so, nothing I can say here can convince you to see it.

  • The drone program has been fully extended under his administration and has caused the deaths of many innocent civilians in the Middle East. I’d love to hear a liberal or conservative’s defense of this program considering its clear violation of constitutional and international law.

    You won’t hear any defense from me. Drones are better than the Bush slaughter, but I think abuse of drones wrong.

    Here’s a handy body count chart for you.

    Which administration is bloodier?

    Or do actual numbers of lives destroyed matter less to you than America’s “image”?

  • Bryce Forestieri

    I can’t brag about having seen Barkhad Abdi coming as a potential Oscar contender, but his snippets from the trailers really affected me. In -sort of- the same way the brief seconds of Alfre Woodard in the 12 YEARS A SLAVE trailer grabbed my attention, although hers is a smaller role. I love me some under-pressure understated Hanks (ROAD TO PERDITION). After all is said and done, and from what I’m reading, this could easily be my favorite Paul Greengrass film. I’m not as big a fan as most everyone here. I hope there’s no excess of shaky cam. I was mildly interested, but now I’m all in.

  • Andrew

    We’ll just have to respectfully agree to disagree with one another. I can’t make you change your mind on the use of drone attacks which have killed a lot of innocent people in the Middle East, and that somehow equates to Obama helping our cause and image? It’s bad, really bad. And it’s causing more anti-American sentiment and an increase in terrorist recruitment.

    If his tactics are different (not as many boots on the ground) than Bush’s, the philosophy remains the same: intervene in the Middle East and maintain a presence there in the name of “national security.” Same philosophy (intervention), different tactics (boots vs drones).

    Someone mentioned our bases not leading to terrorism. It specifically led to terrorism in the Middle East because many in the Middle East view it as occupation on holy lands, so the secondary issue is religiously motivated, but the catalyst was our continued presence. I so wish ‘Argo’ would have shown the Iranian perspective regarding the hostage situation. The CIA overthrew the Iranian government in 1953 (easily researchable, a google search will suffice for those unaware) and replaced it with the Shah. Believe me, that was never forgotten and the blowback from those events was the hostage situation and the tension between Iran and the West has never been the same.

  • david

    You won’t be sorry seeing it its a fabulous movie,great performances from the whole cast especially Larson’s Oscar worthy performance

  • Andrew

    It’s not about lives vs image, it’s about killing, and killing is inherently wrong and immoral. Bush does it, Obama continues it, just to a lesser extent. To stay on topic regarding the review….it is continuing to further erode or reputation around the world, specifically in the Middle East. Senator Obama was firmly against these programs. I respected that man’s opinion on these subjects. I do not respect his decisions as President. No more innocent civilians and children should die at the hands of American drones, thousands of miles away in some foreign land.

  • Christophe

    The 2 things I would reproach Obama are 1. his support of the Muslim Brotherhood hoping they would become a moderate and democratic force when in fact most Egyptians are really tired of them and their strict application of religious rules, and 2. his indecision on Syria when US and allies should’ve intervened a year ago already or at least been more active diplomatically, instead of letting the situation become so out of hand with rebels and civilians torn between a desperate bloodthirsty dictator and jihadists trying to profit from the chaos to terrorize the population.

    As for FOX I do think their analysis is often too US-centric, hence their incapacity to see things otherwise than us vs them. Let’s remember that the victims of islamist terrorism are overwhelmingly moderate muslims and religious minorities living in the middle east. That is why we can’t ignore what’s going on over there, because there is a vast majority of fine people there who long for the same peace and prosperity we enjoy in the West, but who are hostages to some of the most dangerous crazies in history.

  • Check the bottom of this thread. I said 10 minutes ago that I don’t like the overuse of drones.

    I don’t know the if numbers of deaths matter to you. The numbers do matter to me. A fraction deaths have occurred while Obama’s been in office compared to the Bush mass slaughter.

    I’m sorry the number of wartime deaths isn’t zero under Obama. But the world isn’t a utopia yet.

  • Miguel

    David, I was merely listing the movie stars who have risen to the occasion this year to produce performances that prove why they have gained that level of fame, to begin with. Amongst those movie stars, I listed it in order from the most likely to the least likely to get a nomination.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    OT: Only 11 reviews in but RUSH is still 100% on RT, sorry but that’s insane for a Ron Howard movie, I guess he was full on APOLLO 13 mode for this one, and the references to Daniel Brühl’s performance have me salivating.

  • it’s about killing, and killing is inherently wrong and immoral. Bush does it, Obama continues it, just to a lesser extent.

    Let’s name all the leaders from all around the world over the past 5000 years who have never had to make a decision that resulted in someone being killed. This will be fascinating.

  • Christophe

    What on earth are critics thinking? Too many films at 100%: Rush, Gravity, TYAS, All is Lost, Captain Phillips, Blue is the warmest color… If it keeps going like this with the next oscar players, how will the Academy choose among so much good stuff?

    On the other hand Diana is at 17%… The Iron Lady (52%) was a critical darling compared to this. Apparently, even Watts can’t redeem this disaster.

  • david

    I guess with all the bad reviews watts has been getting for that movie I wonder if her best actress nom chances are fading away?

  • steve50

    Greengrass is a master at balance, with regard to characters’ perspective, and pacing. This is what made United 93 such an in-your-face experience.

    Sounds like he’s upped the ante in Mr Phillips. Imagine is he made Argo (using a more truthful, less dramatic-licenced screenplay).

  • david

    Hey Christophe “short term 12” is at 98% just saying

  • steve50

    pffft Like a candle in the wind.

  • Christophe

    spot on! critics aren’t just destroying the film, they also say watts is not as good as usual, tried too hard to imitate Diana instead of trying to feel like her…

    @david I swear if I ever watch Short Term 12 and don’t like it I’ll hold you accountable!

  • ^awesome 😀

  • This movie is shaky isn’t it? I hate skaky movies. I avoid Greengrass for this reason. *sigh* It looks good otherwise.

  • Jay

    I get it David!! You like Brie Larson’s performance but do you need to post it everywhere!? Some performances have not been seen and I highly doubt she is seen as a lock at this moment. We might have history in the making (if Adams doesn’t get in) where Best Actress is filed with 5 previous Academy Award Winners. And right now, she is nowhere near as strong as Bullock and Blanchett. We still need reviews on Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Emma Watson, and Amy Adams.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    Imagine if he made Argo (using a more truthful, less dramatic-licenced screenplay)


    And he should have told Barry Ackroyd “Uh you remember what Ms. Bigelow had you do in THE HURT LOCKER? Just do that from now on”

    or if the shaky cam is his signature

    He could just fire his ass, hire Matt Flannery and go “Uh remember what Gareth had you do in THE RAID? just do that, and make it look vérité I guess”

  • helios

    2. his indecision on Syria when US and allies should’ve intervened a year ago already or at least been more active diplomatically, instead of letting the situation become so out of hand with rebels and civilians torn between a desperate bloodthirsty dictator and jihadists trying to profit from the chaos to terrorize the population.

    How clueless. But I don’t expect many Americans to be informed on political matters concerning the Middle East. It’s not possible to get accurate information from the mainstream media.
    Assad is certainly not a bloodthirsty dictator. The bloodthirsty ones are the US and its bloody hands in the region (Saudi Arabia, the Gulf Arab states, Turkey etc.). The rebels in Syria (aka terrorists Al-Qaeda, Al-Nusra, ‘Free Syrian Army’) receive all kinds of support from the US and its allies. These Sunni groups murder the Shiite/Alawite population for fun but face strong resistance from the Shiite group Hezbollah which supports Assad’s government. Hezbollah gets major support from Syria and Iran and was formed to resist the Israeli occupation. You should be able to figure out the rest.

  • Bryce Forestieri

    I anticipate similar fate for GRACE OF MONACO.

  • Unlikely hood

    Andrew you say you’re a libertarian; just curious, what country do you most admire? Many say that the country with the least government right now is Somalia. Looking forward to your review of Captain Phillips where you use it to show how well Somalia works.

  • “It’s not possible to get accurate information from the mainstream media.”

    The purpose of America’s mainstream media coverage of global affairs is to sell viewers the latest version of Scary Enemy so we go along with spending trillions of dollars on Scary Enemy-Smashing Weapons.

    If we can possibly get back to how this relates to the movie — that’s what Sasha was trying say about the cycle we’re in that began with Bush and FOX.

    FOX wasn’t even a thing in the 1980s. Anyone who doesn’t think the situation is repulsively much much worse since FOX was concocted is too far brainwashed already for reasonable discussion to make any difference.

    All that FOX shit is like a religious cult for those who’ve listened to it spew for the past 10 or 20 years.

  • Bob Burns

    excellent. thanks

  • Bryce Forestieri

    yo TIFF losing their shit over 12 YEARS A SLAVE!

  • Andrew

    Honestly, I don’t think any country is even close to a utopia. The U.S. had the right ideas and succeeded in implementing many of them early on until the expansion of the government in the 20th century. They also failed in many instances (declaring everyone free with rights yet preserving slavery is the most obvious). So the ideals (not necessarily the implementation) that the U.S. was founded on is as close to ideal from a liberty perspective in human history in my estimation.

    However, to answer your question, I’d have to say I very much admire Sweden, particularly for its neutral and non-interventionist foreign policy. It’s popularly seen that Sweden is one of the most admired countries from a governing standpoint, and it has a very good reputation among the global community. Not to mention, it has been a peaceful and non-violent country for hundreds of years.

    I wrote a thesis for my Masters and remember this particular quote from Osama bin Laden regarding the hypocrisy behind Bush’s war mongering with the Middle East and the enemy being at war because of “freedom:”

    “Free people do not relinquish their security. This is contrary to Bush’s claim that we hate freedom. Let him tell us why we did not strike Sweden, for example.”

  • Tony

    I didn’t see much sympathy for the hijackers in “United 93,” and if this movie does sympathize with the Somali pirates, I’ll be very disappointed. Poverty doesn’t excuse putting other people’s lives in jeopardy.
    The USA isn’t perfect, but we’re a pretty damn decent country. So many ethnic backgrounds, so many religions, and we make it work most of the time. If I switched from Catholicism to Islam tomorrow, my odds of being killed won’t change. There are so many Middle Eastern countries where a conversion in the other direction, well, you should know the rest.
    How did “Hamlet” end? **Spoiler Alert** Nearly everybody died at the end. Now we have our own Hamlet in the White House. This dithering shouldn’t even be happening. No war with Syria. Our interests aren’t involved. It’s not genocide either. Tend to our jobless recovery, President O’Benghazi.
    (Btw, I don’t think Bush’s biggest mistake was going into Iraq. His biggest mistake was going in with a “light footprint.” As long as one troop was involved, we’d be seen as occupiers. You do something 100% or don’t do it at all.)

  • moviewatcher

    The Swiss Federal Chancellor?

    You know I had to 🙂

  • However, to answer your question, I’d have to say I very much admire Sweden, particularly for its neutral and non-interventionist foreign policy.

    There are Swedish troops in Afghanistan and Swedish causalities. I’m prepping for the podcast right now so I don’t have time to verify any hard info as to whether Sweden sends their citizens to Afghanistan to kill anybody or if their soldiers are just sent there to be killed.

  • Andrew

    I think their primary objective is under NATO and more on the “peacekeeping operations,” side of things. They’re a lot more active than they were in the 20th century, where if I’m not mistaken, they refused to take sides in WWII and the Cold War. Their inclusion in the EU has broaden their overall involvement in foreign relations, but compared to many countries, particularly the U.S., they’re relatively tame in their foreign policy and quite passive, which one would presume is to ultimately avoid unnecessary conflict, actions we would be wise to heed.

  • Andrew

    I obviously haven’t seen the film but I don’t think it’s necessarily sympathy they should go for, as much as giving the point of view of the antagonist. Making them out as some faceless terrorist with a radical agenda isn’t enough, IMO.

  • rufussondheim

    Darren Aronofsky tweeted that Lupita Nyong’o was the frontrunner.

    I don’t recall any comparisons to Schindler’s List after Telluride, and I was a bit surprised, because I thought it would be inevitable. But now, tonight, it’s getting those comparisons. It’s still early, but it’s looking more likely that 12 Years might just be a juggernaut not to be dismissed. If it wins TIFF Audience Award, a film that’s difficult and demanding, i’d be willing to call it game over.

  • Jpns Viewer

    Thanks for a good read, Sasha

    Speaking for myself, this might sound trifle but these Somali pirate characters do look Somali already [I’ve chosen not to wiki the thesps’s info for now]. I used to have (rich or middle-classed) Somali friends when I was in college (university); they read with me in International section, in some classes. Matter-of-factly speaking, somehow they just look that way – #relatively tall, with high cheekbones, slim but seemingly healthy (talking about my Somali ex-friends only). [#I’m 6-feet tall at least in the morning, and they all are around 5-11 to 6]

    I already like what I’ve seen in the Somali cast (the pirates in the trailers) in terms of look.

    However, I still see that based upon the trailers it will be just a plainly solid fun flick despite the awards buzz – I need to see it for myself. (But occasionally this genre in my opinion, if done right, might have a good chance for editing, supporting thesp, screenplay in addition to Hanks’ performance in this case.)

  • Tony

    Oh, don’t get me wrong. If the film depicts their pre-piracy lives of poverty, that’s fine — as long as the film doesn’t try to use that to excuse them.

  • Pulp Fact

    Seems cool. Hey Sasha or Ryan how does this rank against Greengrass’ other movies. Did it surpass United 93?

  • Ley

    Awards Watch is a shit!

  • “Awards Watch is a shit!”

    … ? Badly misquoted. I think what you mean is this:

    This watch was on your daddy’s wrist when he was shot down over Hanoi. He was captured, put in a Vietnamese prison camp. He knew that if the gooks ever saw the watch, it’d be confiscated and taken away. The way your Dad looked at it, this watch was your birthright. He’d be damned if any slope’s gonna put their greasy, yellow hands on his boy’s birthright, so he hid it in one place he knew he could hide something – his ass. Five long years he wore this watch up his ass. Then, he died of dysentery. He give me the watch. I hid this uncomfortable hunk of metal up my ass two years. Then, after seven years, I was sent home to my family. Now, little man, I give the watch to you.

  • …they refused to take sides in WWII

    Aside from selling tons and tons of iron ore to the Nazis, you mean?

  • “Sweden refused to take sides in WWII”

    Took a little while for that to sink in. Awesome laid-back thing Sweden did there in WWII. Bravo. I mean, why take sides, right? Not as if it made any difference who the heck won WWII. “You guys, stop trying to kill Hitler! …killing is inherently wrong and immoral.”

    The coolest part of this story is how Sweden got Hitler to promise not to use any of the Swedish iron ore to kill anybody. That way the Swedish guys could just get filthy rich and not have any dead people on their conscience.

  • julian the emperor

    Andrew: You’re a libertarian, yet you see Sweden as some form of ideal society?? You are aware that Sweden boasts probably the strongest state-sponsored economy in the Western world, right? The social democratic ideals of the Scandinavian countries are as far from libertarian ideals as you can get (thank goodness!).

    Why did Sweden (and Denmark, for that matter) choose a “neutral” role under WWII? The fact is that the Soviet was, culturally, the big, foreign power and communism was the ideology that the liberal democracies of Scandinavia feared the most. Germany (or Prussia) was, after all, a crucial neighbor throughout hundreds of years. Germany could never be ignored, whereas Soviet was a big threat that should be avoided by any means. These factors made the Danish and Swedish governments hesitate. Also what could they do? They chose to not let a large chunk of their armed forces get annihilated by the German war machine. They avoided a blood bath. It wasn’t the perfect moral decision, but it was the most pragmatic decision and it spared thousands of lives. But rest assured, it it still a fierce debate over here even after 70 years whether we did the right thing or not. Whether we should feel ashamed or not. This debate even explains why the right wing prime minister Anders Fogh Rasmussen (current head of NATO) chose to support Bush’s War on Terror on all accounts. He felt that Denmark should be pro-active and interventionist with regards to our history of passivity in the WWII. He used that argument over and over (I hope that history will judge him harshly for it).

    Furthermore, we shouldn’t forget that the Danes and the Swedes made a lasting contribution to humanity by saving thousands of Jewish lives in one of the most daunting rescue operations of human lives in recent history.
    Danes and Swedes were fiercely anti-Nazi, but it was s tough balancing act in those days, because the Communist threat was so immense for all of the Scandinavian countries. And America didn’t intervene in the war before AFTER the occupation of Scandinavia.

  • Kane

    You’re right. Us Americans know nothing about Middle East politics and have to thrive and learn via Fox News and NBC. And I’m glad you were able to explain things to us before saying, “You can figure out the rest.” It’s good of you to get us far enough where we can take off the training wheels ourselves. FYI though, one of my biggest pet peeves is generalizing an entire group of people. Just because you see uninformed Americans on forums or the news doesn’t mean the ones you don’t see are clueless to international relations as well. Let me know if the air is really thin up on that high horse.

  • OT: Anybody heard anything about some movie called Captain Phillips?

  • Christophe

    Sorry to digress again but I’ve just watched a shocking news report about a movie theater in Damascus which has been showing the same movies for 2 years because of the conflict!

    I’ve found an article about it that says:

    “Now the latest films available at Fardos include 2009’s Bride Wars, starring Anne Hathaway and Kate Hudson, and Friends with Benefits, from 2011, with Justin Timberlake and Mila Kunis.”

    Can you imagine the horror? No wonder they hate America now! US & Allies have to do smth abt it and bring them some good movies if only for the sake of their sanity.

  • steve50

    Acronym change from AD to ADD.

    where’s the mouse, kitty?

  • Andrew

    Wow, came back today and saw all of these responses to my comments. I’d love to have a political discussion with you guys, and will leave a few comments here, but for the sake of this comments section and this (film) website, I think we should try to stay on topic as much as possible, and take this conversation somewhere more appropriate if need be.

    That being said, when I stated I respected some of Sweden’s politics, I didn’t say I defended everything and every decision it makes. I’ll reiterate: I respect their long history of non-intervention, and not getting involved in the affairs of other nations, so as to not unnecessarily put their citizens in harms way, as well as to not make unnecessary enemies. Yes, they’ve been involved more a bit more recently in international affairs, but to the extent of most other nations, including the U.S., it is severely minor. No, they’re not a perfect utopian example regarding their domestic policies (at least not from my perspective of non-coersion and personal freedom) but they’re not nearly as iron-fisted as many other European countries.

    So again, historically speaking, I appreciate Sweden’s attempt to remain neutral overall and bring stability and peace to their own people, which is something they’ve done a very decent job at compared to the majority of the rest of the world.

    Regarding their indirect support of Hitler…that is correct, they did provide utilities, but so did Great Britain (and a lot of other countries) to the Southern states when they seceded from the Union…I’m guessing you’re not going to defend their actions on that front. Sweden didn’t feel it necessary to send their troops to kill other people when they were in no direct danger, in order to stop people from killing others. It’s logical in many respects. “Let’s all go in and kill people who are killing people because killing people is wrong.” There’s an obvious hypocrisy in this. Self-defense is one thing, and I’m all for that, but going out of your way to kill other people who have done no harm to you, is not only wrong, but it creates a lot of unintended consequences.

    I must also mention that the only reason the United States even got involved in WWII is because of the Pearl Harbor attack, which was caused by our oil blockade(another unintended consequence and blowback example). It’s a high probability that we may never have gotten involved in WWII had it not been for that. And yes, I’m saying that the attack on Pearl Harbor was directly caused by our oil blockade on Japan. Research it…(and for movie reference) even refer to the flashback scene at the end of The Godfather Part II where Tom Hagan mentions it.

    Random last point of the day: Obama sends drones overseas to kill suspected bad people (who haven’t been brought to court to prove their guilt and who may or may not be connected to terrorism against the U.S., we just have to take the DOD word for it) and he illegally enters a foreign country (without their permission) and drops bombs on people (in the process killing a lot of innocent people). Do you realize what this does for terrorism recruitment purposes? Is it any wonder why those people in the Middle East hate us so much? We’re constantly bombing their country (it doesn’t matter if it’s in the name of good vs evil, to them, and to the average citizen there, it’s an outside force bombing and destroying their way of life) and those individuals, and understandably so, want to defend their country and their lives. If ANY country did to us what we constantly do to them, we would declare war immediately and seek them out for destruction. Quite frankly, we seek out war against individuals who aren’t even a threat to us much of the time. If anyone would like to continue an intellectual discussion on world events, or politics, etc, please email me at and I’ll be happy to converse with you…but I’m going to try and leave the rest of my comments on awardsdaily from a strictly film perspective moving forward.

  • Patrick

    Ryan, It must be pointed out that while it is true that Congress is the stumbling block for the closure of Gitmo, at the time the President’s party did hold majorities in both houses of Congress. The President’s plan to transfer the detainees to some locations in the US was in part thwarted by members of his own party who caved to GOP opposition. And in honesty, the failure to keep members of his own party in line on one of his signature promises has to be considered in some part Obama’s responsibility.

  • Patrick

    I think their primary objective is under NATO and more on the “peacekeeping operations,” side of things.

    Um…Sweden’s not in NATO.

  • yes, I fully understand that President Obama deserves no credit for anything that ever manages to get done in Washington but everything that goes wrong is all his fault.

    The Gitmo situation is horrendous. But you know what? If Congress is only going to allow 3 things to be accomplished every 8 years, closing Gitmo is way down the list for me — beneath Universal Health Care, Ending the War in Iraq, and Saving the World Economy from Ruin.

    #4,#5 and #6?
    Eliminating Bin Laden, Rescuing the US Auto Industry, Repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell.

    I don’t much care if nobody in Norway is pleased with US priorities.

    I’m fine waiting for Hillary to fix Gitmo.

  • Zulusailor

    As a ship’s captain frequently trading int the Gulf of Aden Area, I can vouch for the authenticity of the marine and piracy scenes I have watched in the various trailers. In many respects they are terrifyingly lifelike. With all the drama in Nairobi and East Africa over the last few days it has been become especially topical and relevant. For more intuitive background to this sad part of the world and the life of pirates and those sailing in the area, check out Amazon Books – ‘The Megiddo Pirates’.

  • Ted

    Here is the song that should have been in the movie – written and performed by friends who went to the same high school as Richie Phillips

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